The smaller fish get to share a semifinal pond. Either Bayern Munich or Dortmund await the winner in the final in Berlin. The Foals have home advantage, but Frankfurt say they’ve nothing to lose.Neither side has any illusions ahead of Tuesday’s German Cup semifinal, whoever makes it to the final in Berlin will be the rank outsider against either Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund.
“When there’s Bayern, Dortmund and Frankfurt in the hat along with you, it’s obvious what we thought – what Frankfurt thought too,” Gladbach’s coach Dieter Hecking told reporters on Monday, recalling the draw. “We have both got our wish. Perhaps with a slight advantage to us, seeing as we’re playing at home.”
Frankfurt’s Nico Kovac concurred that Gladbach – also the wealthier of the two sides with the better stocked squad – should have a slight edge at the Borussia-Park. The bookmakers see it similarly.
“But this is a cup semifinal,” Kovac said. “We have more to gain than to lose, whereas Mönchengladbach started this season with rather different goals.”
Whatever the two teams’ initial targets for the campaign, Frankfurt have the slightest edge in the Bundesliga right now. The Eagles sit ninth, one place and two points above Gladbach, thanks to back-to-back league defeats for the Foals.
Both sides could still hope to qualify for Europe via the league, but a win on Tuesday and then an upset in the final in Berlin on May 27 offers an alternative route to continental competition.
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Eberl appeals to own fans
Gladbach’s sporting director Max Eberl even issued a plea to the club faithful ahead of Tuesday’s game, in response to recent booing of young star Mahmoud Dahoud. Dahoud, like Marco Reus before him, will be moving on to Borussia Dortmund next season.
“The crowd’s the 12th man,” Eberl said. “But it can’t be an obstruction.”
Gladbach face enough obstructions before the game, with eight unavailable through injury. They include playmaker Raffael, Fabian Johnson, Christoph Kramer, Tony Jantschke at the back, and forwards Thorgan Hazard and Josip Drmic. Despite being broadly reinvigorated since Hecking took charge mid-season, the Foals form has faltered amid the absentees.
Frankfurt’s disabled list is less extensive but will most likely include key attacking threat and captain Alex Meier, as well as Japanese international Hakoto Masebe.
Kovac brothers seek return to Berlin
Both clubs romanticized the appeal of the cup, especially for fans, with Hecking talking up supporters’ dreams of the pilgrimage along the A2 Autobahn that provides a straight shot from Berlin all the way west to Gelsenkirchen. “You hear about that all the time,” he said.
Frankfurt’s Niko Kovac said it offered the club a chance to “write history.”
“We have a particular desire, as anyone can understand, because we were both born in Berlin,” he said of himself and his brother Robert.
During their time with Bayern Munich, the Kovac brothers won the 2003 German Cup, but both sat out the final on the bench.
Gladbach have not made the final since their last cup victory, in 1995. Frankfurt, meanwhile, last won the trophy in 1988 but were runners-up in 2006.
The pair’s most recent meeting in the Bundesliga was a forgettable goalless draw on April 1. To give an idea of the game’s pace, Gladbach won their first corner of the entire match three minutes into stoppage time in the second half.
Frankfurt’s board member Axel Hellmann also stressed the financial gains on offer for a win on Tuesday.
“It would be worth 5 million euros,” he calculated. “A sum that would be a good step forward when putting next season’s budget together.”
If the winner could then pull off the unthinkable against either Dortmund or Bayern, who meet in the second semi on Wednesday evening, that figure could rise far further.